How do numbers feature in, what is on the whole, an Archive full of words?

The Richard Burton Archives do have figures lurking behind the scenes:

  • the archives themselves, such as reports, ledgers, accounts, balance sheets, wage books and other financial documents,
  • numerical records that we create, such as the number of people who visit us, how researchers contact us and how many documents are produced.
Extract from Swansea Improvements and Tramways Company Advertising Ledger (Ref. LAC/85/C/28)
©First Group
Source: Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

We take part in regular user surveys and are very grateful to everyone who participates in the Chartered Institute of Public Finance & Accountancy (CIPFA) / Archives and Records Association surveys. We also keep data for business purposes such as Archive Service Accreditation submissions and for reports to organisations like the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL annual statistical returns). From these figures a number of statistics can be derived, patterns and trends spotted, and predictions made.

This year has seen unprecedented changes to the normal running of the service and our website shows the message which is familiar to all:

In an effort to delay the spread of COVID-19, our reading room is currently closed until further notice. We are still answering enquiries via archives@swansea.ac.uk

It’s been interesting looking at the enquiries that have been received since the office closed in March and evidence of the lockdown can be found in the monthly data collected.

As expected, the majority of enquiries have been via email, although there has been a handful through social media and Archives Hub, and there’s even been the odd telephone call. This fits into the trend that The National Archives have identified.

So what are our customers wanting to know? It’s fascinating to see what documents and collections our visitors are interested in and the pie chart below shows which collections were enquired about most.

Most enquires this year, understandably, relate to Swansea University and its centenary celebrations:

The Raissa Page Collection, which launched in October 2019, continues to be of particular interest – especially the ‘Dancing on the Silos’ image.

Greenham: Dancing on the silos at dawn. New Year’s Day 1 Jan 1983 by Raissa Page (Ref. DC3/14/1/67) Copyright Adrianne Jones, courtesy of the Richard Burton Archives, Swansea University

Through a new project exploring Raissa Page’s life and work, former cataloguing archivist, David Johnston-Smith will generate further interest in this thought-provoking collection. Keep up-to-date with his progress by following @RaissaPage.

There’s been a surge in enquires wondering when the service will re-open. Unfortunately there is no date as yet but we guarantee we will let you know when this will be, so follow @SwanUniArchives or look at our website.

If this article has piqued your interest with all things statistical, it is worthwhile looking at the Office for National Statistics to see what is possible to do with data – did you know they even have their own archives!

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